By recent James Bond movie standards, i.e. the past 20 years, this installment rates a 7 or 8 out of 10. However, by regular movie standards, it still only rates a 4, which says more about the degradation of the Bond franchise than much else. I am thereby granting a rating of Rental + Snacks as the average between the two. Most Bond fans know where to set the baseline for their expectations.
One thing I do respect about Bond movies is their adherence to tradition; recent ones try to stick to the old formula but still keep the action up to modern expectations (and the new safe sex Puritanism). These traditions are as follows: Cutting edge pop title song with undulating chicks. Check, though the flame chicks look disturbingly like zombie corpse women. Hot cars, hot ladies, a tux, a nice watch, a killer gizmo, a martini, some boinky, a gun in a thigh holster, and the tagline “Bond. James Bond.” He did not say “shaken not stirred,” causing rumbling in the tectonic plates.
Like writing a pulp romance, the screenwriters are by necessity and tradition partially restrained by the expectations of convention. The ending of the Cold War and Sexual Revolution did a lot of damage to Bond’s swagger. After stuffing all the “have to haves” into the script, the rest is just showy set pieces and far too many plots. And as my companion agonized, watching Judi Dench “slumming for queen and country,” just makes it all the more painful. With what appears to be one of the two main plots being lifted straight from a Simpsons episode (2F16 if you must know) and a character whose face recalls 4F18’s Mr. Sparkle, it doesn’t seem as if the spy genre can sustain itself any further. Bond must not only work out a complex North/South Korean political snafu, isolate some dirty diamonds, shut down a genetic lab that is somehow bad, uncover a mole, get revenge on his betrayer, and shut down two concurrent supervillain plots, but also bag babes and look good in a tux and Aston Martin? Come on!
While some of 007’s sequences in this film make the average action movie look like a documentary, some are still pretty cool. None are altogether feasible, but I maintain that we don’t go to the moves to see feasible. My rocket scientist companion, commenting on the physics of the various sequences, wished to be quoted as saying, “No. Just no.” Our favorite ladies’ man suffers indignities and deprivations unheard of in recent scripts, and then we get a fun barrage of Classic Bond in-jokes, as if they were wrapping up the series. This would be OK, a good place to stop. Poor Ian Fleming has probably spun himself into dust by now.
Pierce Brosnan was genetically engineered to play 007 – steely blue eyes, smooth shave, perfect hair, and even men find him attractive. He’s stretched a little thin, but at least Brosnan looks like he believes in what he is doing. Since he’s been licensed to kill, the scripts have not given him the room to play and banter like he got to in his Remington Steele days. He’s devolved into reactionary bang bang, land the girl and get on with the explosions. The dialogue (including his “that actually worked??” pick up lines) is more punny and painful than I recall – tons of agonizing one-liners. Sure, every Bond movie has a little limp repartee but this was ridiculous. Bond is British, he’s got more wit than that. Brit wit writ by Yank wank stank.
Close your ears to any dialogue accompanied by an arched eyebrow and think of Iceland as exempt from NATO laws of physics, and you should have an OK time. Damn, that movie was expensive.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 11/22/02
Time in minutes 132
Director Lee Tamahori